Happy Friday. Welcome to the mailbag.
To the questions!
Dominic from Tucson writes: With all this Big 12 expansion talk, is it likely that the Pac-12 expands in the future? And speaking of the future, where do you see the Pac-12 as a conference in the next 10 years?
Ted Miller: "Likely" might be a strong term, at least in the near future. But things change quickly. Few saw the massive changes of 2011 coming. Not to sound all business school cliche, but it's important that the Pac-12 be proactive instead of reactive if expansion rumblings start a domino effect.
It seemed to me after listening to Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby graciously talk at great length about his conference's issues that he believes the Big 12 should expand. There are strong pro- and anti-expansion sentiments in the Big 12, and the complicating issue is which programs would actually add value for the existing members. The gaggle of sportswriters gathered in Phoenix for the conference meetings this week had their own diverse ideas, probably echoing much of the debate among Big 12 administrators.
Truth is, the Big 12's big play would be to go after Arizona and Arizona State. Likewise, the Pac-12's big play would be to go after Texas and Oklahoma -- yes, another rear-flank assault on the Big 12, a la Pac-16 ideas of yore. Yet if a bunch of rumblings started, don't think for a second that the Big Ten and SEC would passively sit out a round of expansion, even though each conference presently has 14 teams.
While such big fish speculation is fun, the reality is the Big 12 likely would be picking from teams such as Central Florida, Cincinnati, BYU, Boise State, Connecticut, Houston and the like, as noted by Jake Trotter, who by the way is now sporting a dapper salt-and-pepper beard.
When folks write me about potential Pac-12 expansion, they always include a list of regional possibilities. Call me a milquetoast, but I hate saying, "No way," even if that is what I'm thinking, because the need for an explanation amounts to a pretty strong denigration of the value of the programs offered up. Saying the Pac-12 isn't interested in Program X because of market size/academics/values/overall athletic department quality, etc., understandably enrages a fan base.
So here's the gist: At our present historical moment, no regional program would add real value for the existing 12 conference teams.
Texas? Now you're talking ... or dreaming.
Chris writes: [A Pac-12 reporter] said on a recent podcast that Cal is in "total rebuild mode" citing the loss of Goff and the top six receivers. Arguably, the Bears' new receiving corps is potentially much more talented than their predecessors but obviously less experienced. Of course, all coaches would prefer highly skilled, multiple-year starters. On your team, Coach Miller, you can have either talent OR experience, but not both. What is your choice?
Ted Miller: Not sure if I'm ready to write off Cal just yet. While no team loses more in terms of 2015 production from offensive skill players, the Bears are going to be strong on the offensive line, which is a great start, and should continue to improve on defense.
The recent addition of uber-recruit receiver Demetris Roberston also might not turn out to be the only good news the Bears offense gets this offseason (insert polite but obscure cough).
The visit from Texas on Sept. 17 should be very telling (for both teams, by the way).
As for your question of talent versus experience as a zero-sum selection, I'd always go with talent. While we like to mythologize coaches, guys like Urban Meyer and Nick Saban win because they collect a surfeit of great players, not because they are magical with Xs and Os and motivational techniques.
Scott writes: I knew the article about what happened in the NFL draft this year was going to produce the article you wrote about a poor NFL draft leading to grumpy conference meetings, since the holy dominant SEC did it for the 10th year in a row and all of us California tree-hugging liberal hippies obviously can't play football against the mighty teams from the South -- why for the fifth year in a row (since I have been able to find this stat) did the state of California have the most players in the NFL? Instead of course from a state below the Mason-Dixon line. Thanks for explaining this to me because I am sure my California roots must be scrambling my brain, right? It's not like California actually has better football players, right?
Ted Miller: Well, for one, Florida is at the very least neck and neck with California in terms of NFL players. Second, California having the most NFL players should happen because it's by far the most populous state. In fact, if everyone from Illinois moved to Florida, you'd still need everyone in Washington also to move to the Sunshine State to get things equal.
Moreover, the per capita numbers for the production of NFL players decisively favors the Southeast. I remember doing the math on this way back in 1998 and Louisiana was No. 1. Now Louisiana is No. 2 behind Alabama and ahead of Georgia.
The fairly basic math here is impossible to controvert. Honest.
Now, it's important to keep the SEC folks honest. For example, when they tout their raw production of NFL draft choices compared to the Pac-12, make sure they know to divide their total by 14 teams and the Pac-12 total by 12. That narrows the gap, but doesn't eliminate it most years, though it's worth noting the Pac-10 had better drafts than the SEC in 2008 and 2009.
Further, the Pac-12 continues to lead the way at quarterback. For the third time since 2012, a Pac-12 QB was drafted either No. 1 or No. 2 overall, and the Pac-12 produced three QB selections in the first five rounds of the draft for a second consecutive year, and those QBs came from six different teams. That's pretty remarkable.